Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws for Drug Offenses

By Lowry Law Firm | Posted on January 22, 2016

Drug policy is beginning to shift in the United States. Politicians are reconsidering drug-sentencing laws, specifically the zero tolerance policies brought about by the War on Drugs. According to an article in the Huffington Post, these policies failed to decrease the use and trade of drugs. Additionally, communities of color suffer disproportionately under these policies. While African-Americans and Latinos have lower rates of substance use when compared with whites, they are incarcerated in higher numbers for drug offenses. For example, African-Americans make up 13 percent of drug users in the U.S. but 37 percent of drug use arrestees.In addition to research, a diverse reform movement emerged. This movement includes members of law enforcement, government, community organizations, human rights activists, doctors, military veterans, and convicted drug offenders and their families. Backed by research and the reform movement, the Smarter Sentencing Act was introduced in both Houses of Congress. Two separate but similar bills were introduced in both the House and the Senate, gaining bipartisan support from both liberal and conservative politicians. The Smarter Sentencing Act would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. A mandatory minimum sentence means that if someone is convicted of a specific offense, the judge is required by law to impose at least the minimum punishment associated with that charge.To illustrate, there are mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug trafficking offenses in Florida. For marijuana, any trafficking offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence ranging from three to 15 years in prison depending on the amount of pot. Any trafficking offense that involves cocaine also carries a minimum sentence. Someone caught with one ounce of cocaine could face the minimum sentence of three years in prison. The most severe punishment for trafficking cocaine or other controlled substances (specifically, prescription drugs) is a mandatory minimum life sentence. This means that for anyone convicted of the highest level of drug trafficking must serve a life prison sentence. Additionally, under federal law, third-time drug offenders charged with selling a certain amount of a controlled substance are also mandated to a life sentence.The Smarter Sentencing Act would reduce mandatory minimum sentences. The House bill would reduce the current life sentence requirement to 20 years and the Senate bill would reduce it to 25 years. However, it is uncertain if and when this bill will pass. It must be passed by Congress and signed by the President to be enacted into federal law. Until that happens, the current laws remain in place.

Get Legal Representation

If you have been arrested for a drug offense in Florida, you could be facing a mandatory minimum sentence. If you have been arrested for any drug crime, you need the help of a defense attorney. Mark S. Lowry is an experienced criminal defense attorney based in Fort Lauderdale. He understands the most effective defenses to drug charges, including how to defend your constitutional rights. Contact the office today for a free case evaluation.